|'Egerton gurns his way through it, but Jackman, as straight man, is often left performing stock Comedy scenes (water bring spat out of a glass in the face of unbelievable news? Check.)'|
If there is a micro element of Eddie The Eagle which showcases director Dexter Fletcher at his best then it is in the moments featuring Eddie's (Taron Egerton) long suffering parents (Jo Hartley and Keith Allen). It is reductive to say that Fletcher can only do Kitchen Sink Drama, but he is clearly at home with family relationships and Allen's grumpy belligerence paired with Hartley's love and Egerton's sweet naivety proves a winning formula.
That those sections are the highlight though, in a film about Eddie 'The Eagle' Edwards' unlikely trip to the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics, speaks to the fact that there are other elements here that don't work as well as they should. The film shares a setting and thematic journey with Cool Runnings - underdogs travel to the Olympics for the love of sport and are met with derision - but the script by Sean Macaulay and Simon Kelton fails to find the charm and the laughs that that film had.
Of course, Cool Runnings had John Candy in the coach-cum-surrogate-father role. Fletcher has Hugh Jackman, who can do a lot of things but cannot make flat punchlines sing, no matter how hard he works. Egerton gurns his way through it, but Jackman, as straight man, is often left performing stock Comedy scenes (water bring spat out of a glass in the face of unbelievable news? Check.) or delivering lines which needed another draft.
Egerton meanwhile, gurning included, is certainly a talking point. On the one hand it's a fairly brave thing to abandon generalisation and really try to nail Edwards' ticks. On the other, it sometimes verges on distraction, his performance quickly becoming a melange of unanchored eyebrows and a jutting chin.
As the very light Drama races to a close, Fletcher shows both wider promise and the ability to get himself into a muddle. Throughout the film there are great shots of ski jumpers; from scenic distance, from behind, of faces as they fly down slopes, of bones and limbs tumbling down the ice chute. It's something new and the visuals do their best to lift a familiar story. Whilst they're doing that though, a background sub plot is needlessly brought explicitly onto the screen, as Christopher Walken is bused in for literally two scenes and about equal the number of lines. It's odd and it doesn't need to be there on any level, thus testing the general rule that Walken will improve your film through mere presence alone.